Antichrist, we hardly knew you. We thought we did. What silly kids we were. In the 80s, the Antichrist was one guy who we heard tell was soon to “walk the Earth.” Metalhead kids everywhere used the concepts of Satan and the Antichrist to taunt their parents. It was harmless fantasy. Most of the people involved didn’t have a thing to compare it to, other than an obscure reference in their religious upbringing. If you went to a Catholic school like I did, and you quoted Anton LaVey, you could swing a pretty heavy ax in the company of the fearful. It only took a few test swipes to realize that Satan wouldn’t actually appear and possess you. After that, you were free to listen to all the Iron Maiden and Slayer you wanted, feigning Satanic extremism while the less adventurous just held their breath.
As I cast my vote today, I found myself looking at the faces of other voters, the people standing around, the poll workers, the people outside. Some of them were looking back at me. I thought I was noticing something in their bleary eyes, looking out from under their stupid caps, looking like overgrown little boys who got into momma’s liquor cabinet. One guy was in camouflage for crissakes. They, I imagined, were looking at my long, graying hair and making their own judgments about the mask I was wearing. I was already feeling terribly about my country and most everyone in it, so I was on high alert for enemies. I had read the stories about voter intimidation, which I actually didn’t understand. Somewhere in the American cesspool, in Pennsylvania, there were armed weekend warriors hiding their faces and watching ballot boxes? What were they gonna do? Shoot people? Who would be intimidated by this? What does that even mean? It made no sense to me. But there I was, looking for my own version of those images, ready for my mettle to be tested. What nonsense!
For moment there, voting felt like preamble to a subversive act. How did this happen? I had to snap out of it. I remembered so many other elections that I’d voted in. I never tried to fathom the depths of the personae of everyone in line. I merely considered that the essence of elections was the idea of a “secret” ballot. Voting was your business and your business alone. It did not define your character. I remembered in particular the day when Ross Perot was on the ballot. That was as wild as it got. I didn’t get the impression then that people were voting their fears. Today, it was more like people were afraid not to vote. The urgency was such that people seemed to be hurrying from their cars to the door.
On the way home, as I considered the confusing feelings in which I had indulged, the Antichrist suddenly came into focus for me. That personification of evil from the 80s was kid stuff. It was never more than a parable. I don’t believe anyone could have understood it then. I certainly didn’t. The Antichrist is not the previous president or any of the sycophants who so often line up behind him. The Antichrist is not a person. The Antichrist is no more the source of pure evil than Christ is the source for love and peace. Both are nothing more than an influence. The Antichrist is the tendency toward chaos, fear and hatred for its own sake. The Antichrist represents the choice to accept human weakness. But it’s still just an option. The human beings who are susceptible to influence are the ones that do the real work. For the Antichrist, the chaos, fear and hatred are the end goals. The manifestations of human suffering that result are completely up to us. Was there ever a time when human weakness was not a choice? That choice is just presented more explicitly now. The influences are more raw than they used to be, which only seems to indicate to me that humanity is truly at a tipping point. Never in my lifetime has more responsibility been placed on all of us to think for ourselves and about each other. Like always, poor, poor, pitiful humanity, for the most part, is not up to it.
Civilizations end. Ideas die and are rediscovered. The longer the timeline of recorded history, the less significant the periods of failure become. But from a practical standpoint, humanity cannot accept itself at any stage as an ever-shrinking dot on a continuum. That requires a level of enlightenment that accepts everything as temporary, even us. If we dread there being no chair for us when the music stops, that’s just our weakness. That dread is a choice.
Despite being a meditator, I can’t claim an unshakable enlightenment. I have not mastered some secular dharma that steels me against any and all human weakness to which I might be inclined. On some days, I’m above it. On others, I’m of it. On some of those days, elections are held.